With Internet Access, “Unlimited Usage” and “Speeds Up to” Are Meaningless

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A Comcast brochure offered high-speed Internet service with these words: “Unlimited usage for a flat monthly fee.” But as one consumer recently found out, the service is unlimited only so long as limits his usage to 250 GB per month. So it’s not “unlimited” at all.

While 250 GB represents a ton of data—Comcast says it’s enough to download 125 standard def movies, and that its average customer uses maybe 3 GB a month—the consumer’s appetite for the Internet seems bottomless, what with watching TV online and streaming movies via Netflix. (HD movies use up a lot more data than standard definition films, by the way.) The bigger point is that unlimited means unlimited—without limits.

Comcast, per the Consumerist post where this story originated, says that it has updated info on its website that overrules the customer’s brochure. It’s perfectly, aggravatingly legal, apparently.

In other news regarding misleading Internet provider claims, the LA Times took a look at what boasts of superfast online speeds—of “up to” blah-blah-blah megabits per second—really mean. Well, the “up to” is there for a reason. For much of the typical day, you’ll never come close to that “up to” speed. From the story:

The Federal Communication Commission determined in a recent report that “actual broadband speeds lag advertised speeds by as much as 50% to 80%,” particularly at peak usage times from 7 to 10 p.m.

Think about that. At least half the time you’re online, and in some cases as much as 80% of the time, you’re not getting the superfast speed that was prominently featured in ads for the service.

So why don’t Internet providers like Verizon (featured in the LA Times piece) advertise the average speed—you know, the usual one that a customer can expect to actually use? For that matter, what is the average speed? Neither Verizon, nor its competitors are up for answering those questions.